Faithlife Sermons

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“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest.
She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said.
But Martha was distracted with all the preparations she had to make, so she came up to him and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work alone?
Tell her to help me.’
But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed.
Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.’” [1], [2]
A saying frequently heard among the faithful living in the southern United States asserts, “Good is enemy of the best.”
It is a pointed way of saying that it is possible to settle for what is good while sacrificing what is best.
Settling for what is good, though less than the best, means that we are willing to accept what is inferior.
In our text, we have the account of Jesus arriving at a home where he was to be entertained.
Two sisters lived in this home—one sister was eager to honour the Master through providing the expected hospitality; the other sister seized the opportunity afforded by Jesus’ presence to spend time listening to the Master.
One of the sisters was commended for choosing what was best; the other was tacitly rebuked for choosing what was less important.
Charles Hummel penned a booklet that popularised a phrase that was known among Christians, though not used as often as it should have been.
The title of the book in question was “Tyranny of the Urgent.”
[3] The booklet addressed the failure to prioritise needs in our lives.
Our lives are incessantly invaded by urgent demands.
Dinner is interrupted by the incessant ringing of the phone; we feel compelled to answer because it might be important.
So, we set aside the important need for family time enjoying conversation and a meal to answer the urgent.
We elevate the urgent over the important.
Energy and vital resources are consumed by the urgent.
I contend that it is a feature of contemporary Christian life that we routinely choose the good at the expense of the best; we surrender to the urgency of the moment.
We are undoubtedly doing “good” things, delivering “good” messages, living “good” lives; however, we are not choosing what is best; we are neglecting the best.
The message this evening is designed to challenge us to review the choices we make and the manner in which we conduct our lives in order to discover what is best and to encourage those who hear to do that which is best.
One of the dark sayings Jesus delivered to those who thought to follow Him is that cautioning against presuming that doing good things will suffice to merit His commendation.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” [MATTHEW 7:21-23].
How shocked many will be in that day!
Indeed, Jesus says those appealing to their goodness will be many!
Yet, they are deceived.
At Judgement, the Master warns that many people will appeal to their deeds and to their message—deeds that are undoubtedly “good” and a message that is “good.”
Despite their protestations, they will be cast away from the Son of God because they chose what was good rather than what was best.
They defined what was acceptable in their own sight rather than accepting God’s definition of “good.”
Consequently, they will be condemned because they did not accept God’s standard of righteousness.
These lost souls will fall under the censure that Paul pronounced: “Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” [ROMANS 10:3, 4].
However, what can be said of those who are born from above?
How shall these individuals fare in the choices exercised in life?
Because they follow the Master, do they not have responsibility to choose what is best, refusing to settle for what is merely good?
How shall they stand before the scrutiny of the Reigning Son of God?
One passage of the Word that should give pause to any serious Follower of the Way is that found in 1 CORINTHIANS 3:10-15.
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it.
Let each one take care how he builds upon it.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
However one may attempt to interpret this particular portion of the Word, one truth stands out—choices in this life have consequences before the Son of God! What we choose will either result in glory to God, receiving His commendation, or our choices will result in loss of commendation because they exalted ourselves.
Either our choices honour God, or they do not.
Either we pursue His glory, or we pursue our own honour.
What a tragic statement concerning many of the religious leaders of Israel in the days in which the Master walked the dusty roads of Judea.
Despite having performed many signs in their presence, many leaders did not believe in the Master.
John says this failure to believe was “so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.”
Then, the Apostle of Love cites two passages found in the Book of Isaiah—ISAIAH 53:1 and ISAIAH 6:10.
“‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’
Therefore they could not believe.
For again Isaiah said,
‘He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.’”
As an aside of some significance, even the failure to believe the Master was prophesied long years before, demonstrating God’s sovereignty at work.
How humbling!
John then adds this commentary: “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” [JOHN 12:37-43].
Religious leaders, those responsible for revealing the mind of God to those who looked to them for direction, believed Jesus was the Christ but did not confess.
The reason is revealed by John as loving glory that comes from man more than they loving the glory that comes from God! Is this not is a major factor motivating choices that religious people make to this day?
Martha chose what was inferior because of feeling the press of duty.
Others choose what is inferior because they fear what someone might think of them.
What justification can we give for opting for what is good rather than what is best?
*CHOOSING THE BEST RELIGION* — On one occasion I was told that approximately five new religions are started each day in the Bay Area of San Francisco.
Having lived there and ministered in San Francisco, I can believe this assessment to be true.
Multiply that statistic by the number of people claiming to be “spiritual,” though rejecting the Faith, and you realise that technically, each person can be a religion unto themselves.
Within Christendom, we approach the Faith cafeteria style, picking what we like and discarding what we dislike; in effect, we witness a la carte religion as result of this approach.
Nevertheless, there are numerous major religions—Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Baha’i, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Neo-Paganism, Rastafarianism and so forth.
It is impossible for any one person to be expert on such a smorgasbord of religions.
Then, under each heading of the various religions, there are subsets reflecting minority, sectarian views.
Within Christianity, there are numerous sects emphasising differing doctrinal positions and a multiplicity of cults that distort essential truth to their own condemnation.
How does one “choose” which religion is best.
Intuitively, we know that the religion we choose is not simply important—it is vital!
Thus, people often agonise over choosing the religion they will follow.
To simplify matters, I often advise people who ask how they should worship, that there truly are only two religions—“do” or “done.”
We could just as accurately identify the two religions as “true” or “false”; however, I choose to focus on the manner in which the various religions direct adherents to approach God.
Reducing the issue to the essentials, all religions endeavour to come before God, or at least come before a god of the religion’s own making.
How the religion directs adherents to approach God distinguishes all into one of two categories.
Either a religion attempts to compel the god sought to accept the worshipper, or the religion approaches on the basis of grace.
Either a religion exalts the efforts of the worshipper, or the religion drives the worshipper to seek mercy from the one worshipped.
When reduced to such a simple matter, the answer to one’s search becomes easy—choose the religion that is true.
Suddenly, the matter is reduced to a logical search for what is pleasing to God.
At this point, I assume that one seeks to know the True and Living God rather than attempting to create a god of one’s own choosing.
Jesus said, “Those who want to follow the will of God will know if what I teach is from God or if I teach my own thoughts” [JOHN 7:17].
[4] The Master then explains the criterion by which one can assess their search.
“The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” [JOHN 7:18].
Undoubtedly, there are moral people who follow religions other than the Christian Faith.
Perhaps there are Muslims who truly want to do what is right and who endeavour to act conscientiously.
No one questions that among Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists are individuals who strive to act with integrity and do what is right.
However, one need but ask how the god sought in these various religions is to be satisfied.
If worshippers neglect one tenet or another of their religious practise, will the god they seek accept them?
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